Welcome to part 2 of my Fakemon design tutorial, where I will narrate my process for designing a fakemon in such a way to allow you to follow my methods to create a fakemon of your own. You can find Part 1 here, where I talked about how to find an idea and then devise an appropriate design. In this part, I will explain how to make the sprite. The next entry will elaborate on the details like moveset, abilities, name, etc.
Let’s start where we left off on the last entry, where we envisioned a fairy/psychic type Pokemon based on Cat Sidhe.
I changed some details around from the version I made in the last entry, which I felt was too simple a design, especially for a non-evolving Pokemon. I liked the idea of having it ride around on a witch broom so much that I incorporated the idea of a broom into its design: Now, it can hop on its broom-shaped tail and fly around. I got rid of the redundant pattern on its chest and instead gave it a bell, because that seemed fitting of a Fairy-type. I also added in some more details, like giving it blue pawpads and cute star whiskers. Now we’ve got a much more appealing and unified design!
Now that I’ve got a design that I’m fully satisfied with, let’s move on to…
3. The Sprite
Let’s be real for a second here: as of the 6th generation, Pokemon games no longer use pixel sprites. Instead, they have these lovely, fully-animated 3D models, which inject the creatures with personality and give them life like never before.
But nostalgia is a powerful thing, and while it is technically possible to emulate the 3D pokemon style, it’s pretty impractical… and I have a soft spot for 2D pixel sprites. My own style is the most similar to the last generation to use 2D sprites, the 5th gen (not coincidentally also my favorite generation).
And of course, when it comes to making fakemon to put in hacks or fangames, pixel sprites are a must. Pokemon Firered and Ruby are still the most popular bases for ROM hacks, and many RMXP-based fangames use 2D sprites too. They’re useful due to the small file size, the ease of recoloring (for shinies etc), and the nostalgic appeal. Which is why I’m not going to stop making sprites any time soon.
Without any further ado, let me show you my step-by-step process for making a pixel sprite.
I start with an 80×80 canvas on my pixel art program of choice, GraphicsGale. I actually work on a much larger canvas, 800×800 usually, and utilize the included grid feature to divide it into appropriately-sized squares. Why 80×80? That was the limit on sprite size in Diamond and Pearl, and although Black and White expanded it to 92×92, very few sprites strayed beyond the 80×80 box. It’s also the size I use in my game. I seldom feel the need to go outside it; almost any Pokemon design, no matter how complex, can be made to fit in these bounds with a little creativity.
I use a neutral color for a background, usually a desaturated green or blue. This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to spriters who are starting out: the impulse is often to work on a blank white canvas, but by drawing on a colored background, your colors and outlines are guaranteed to look good against any background. Since all the sprites I make are transparent, and appear in-game in several locations, this matters a lot.
Next, I make a sketch. For more complex designs, I usually draw this out on paper first to get a general idea for pose, but for simple designs like this one I just freehand it. It’s okay if the lines are rough or jagged at this point, because I’ll clean them up later.
I like to compare the size of my sketch at this point to the size of similarly-sized canon Pokemon. If it’s too big or too small, I drag the corners to resize it and then clean the outlines a bit to make them less jagged.
Flat colors. These were based on the art that I drew before. Pick colors that stand out from each other. There are 3-4 main colors for this guy’s color scheme so I picked those.
I also clean up outlines and add details. At this point it is important to remember that outlines should be 1px thick and have smooth curves — I’ll explain the specifics of this in another entry. You should regularly zoom out (or use a preview) to make sure your sprite looks as good at 1x as it does when zoomed in. (I usually use 600-800% magnification.) You want to make sure that your fine details, particularly those around the face, look good on a small scale.
Shading. For clear-looking sprites, I generally use 3 shades per color (base, shadow and outline), occasionally adding a 4th highlight shade when I feel is essential. The light source in all Pokemon sprites comes from the top-left, or the top-right in case of backsprites. I like to conserve colors and limit my palette as much as I can. Having enough contrast between shades is, again, important if you want your sprite to read on a small scale.
Last is the outline and other fixes. This is where the colored background comes in handy the most, to make sure the outline colors are even and will look good on any background. I saved the trickiest details, the whiskers, for last because I wanted to make sure the underlying parts looked good first.
And there you have it! Just for fun, here’s a gif I made of the progress:
That’s all for today. Next time, we’ll pick out abilities, states and moves for this guy, as well as choose a name… which I’m still stumped on! If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments section, please!